The church is part of a large compound that includes the present very large building, an older building that they refer to as the "old church," a rectory, athletic field and school. The church, although new, is very traditional in design in a modern sort of way, with marble floors. The interior includes a raised altar area dominated by a large crucifix and prominent gold tabernacle. Among the more modern touches are comfortable cushioned pews and central air conditioning.
They have a number of groups, including teams for various sports. There is also Bible study, scouts, Knights of Columbus, and a widow/widower fellowship group, to name just a few. There is the Saturday vigil mass plus three morning masses on Sunday and one in the evening. One thing that is very interesting about this community is that it is located in the Diocese of Harrisburg, which has a very large number of priestly vocations. As of this writing there are 27 men studying for the priesthood.
Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania and sits just east and south of center within the state's boundaries. It is somewhat notorious for its fiscal difficulties during the nearly 30-year tenure of mayor Stephen Reed from 1981 to 2009. The city filed for bankruptcy in 2011 but the petition was dismissed due to irregularities in the filing. The city then went into receivership and is currently beginning the long climb out of its financial woes. The church is on Allentown Boulevard, also known as U.S. Route 22, which runs from Ohio to New Jersey. Interstate 81 is also nearby.
The Very Revd Edward J. Quinlan, pastor, was the celebrant. The entrance procession consisted of six extraordinary ministers in white robes, six junior acolytes in surplice and red cassock, six senior acolytes in surplice and black cassock, and a lay reader, as well as the celebrant. At communion time the Revd Richard J. Mowery, parochial vicar, appeared in cassock, surplice and stole to assist with the distribution.
What was the name of the service?Mass.
How full was the building?
About 80 per cent full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Was your pew comfortable?
Extremely. It was cushioned, with proper spacing for kneeling. My wife even commented on how comfortable they were.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet and reverential. The lights were kept at a soft level with the tabernacle and crucifix illuminated, providing a wonderful opportunity for quiet prayer.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A missal and hymn book by Liturgical Press.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ. It appears to be an electronic instrument, with a three-manual keyboard and two large speakers mounted on the rear wall of the church.
Did anything distract you?
Unfortunately my daughter wasn't feeling well, and that was a distraction. Another surprising distraction was that everyone was singing. Catholics don't do that!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very reverent and beautiful, Everyone seemed genuinely happy to be there. In fact, an older couple behind us, who also seemed to be visiting (but who oddly disappeared after communion), commented on the atmosphere.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – You don't often hear sin preached on without the accompanying hellfire and brimstone, but this was a gentle, comforting sermon about sin.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Baptism removes the stain of original sin, but actual sin separates us from God. But that separation can be healed through the sacrament of confession.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
During the offertory the entire congregation sang every verse of "Hail holy Queen enthroned above." Never before have I heard a Catholic congregation sing so heartily! I actually caught myself tearing up. We also sang every verse of "Sing of Mary pure and holy" (perhaps my favorite hymn) on the way out.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Unfortunately, they used one of the alternate psalms and not the one in the book. I couldn't quite make it out because I could't hear the cantor well enough.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The pastor was making an effort to greet people on the way out, so I shook his hand and told him how much I enjoyed the mass.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
None on offer.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – We live 372 miles away, but I actually asked my wife if we could move there so we could attend this parish every week.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Absolutely, in every way, shape and form.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
That everyone sang all the hymns from beginning to end.